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    We've all done Thunder Over Louisville proletariat-style: claimed riverside spots with tarps and blankets spread out and defended them with squatter's claims; packed coolers with every manner of food (arranged just so to cover up caches of verboten adult beverages); mingled with the amiable masses all doing the same; and then dashed madly to our cars as soon as the fireworks ended.

    But have you ever wondered what it's like to attend a paid-for Thunder party? Ever crossed your mind how easy it is to arrive at such a gathering bearing little more than your wallet and a pre-mailed wristband or ticket? I got to do that last year at Rocky’s Sub Pub overlooking the Ohio in Jeffersonville. That was sweet, easy and virtually stress-free compared to the labored lugging of years past.

    Save for one extraordinarily lucky year, when I got to watch the show on the water from the deck of a tugboat that pushed the fireworks barges into place, I must say the view from the Indiana side beats the lookin' from Louisville. Yeah, I'm dissing my hometown saying that, but the truth must be told. It's especially better for the air show.

    So this year I'm going back to Rocky's and adding a new stop to the list: The Bristol Bar & Grille in Jeffersonville. This is one of those times when being a modestly paid reporter is a darn good gig because you gain access to some cool events that might otherwise exceed a Clark Kent budget.

    Neither party is sold out yet, so if you think this is the year to leave the wagon train behind and skip packing your own toilet paper to Thunder, read on and see what's on the menu in Indiana:

    Rocky's Sub Pub's Third Annual Craft Beer Extravaganza during Thunder Over Louisville: Price: $85 per person for everyone 13 and older; $25 for kids 6-12; under 6 eat free (alcoholic beverages cost extra); and doors open at 2 p.m. Despite the words "craft beer" in the name, I can't stress enough how family-focused this event is. Last year the Rocky's crew have games, arts and crafts and snacks for kids, the bank area between the restaurant and the river is wide open for running around. Two other swell things about paying for access to a party like this: the virtual elimination of riff-raff, and the lack of lines at the brigade of clean port-o-potties.

    Last year's menu was basic cookout food: grilled meats, cold salads and desserts. It was solid and there was plenty of it. This year's event will include a smattering of appetizers during the day with the dinner stuffét opening at 5:30. For me, however, the abundance of craft beers is the big draw. Manager Thomas Kaphammer has assembled 10 microbrewers from near and far for this year's affair, and those folks will pull 26 different kinds of the good stuff, i.e. NABC, Three Floyds, BBC, Dogfish Head and more.


    To make your reservation, call 812-284-2919 or 812-282-3844.

    Jeffersonville Bristol Bar & Grille’s Third Annual Thunder Over Louisville Party: Price is $170 per seat at premium tables; $130 per seat at limited-view tables; $95 per barstool (alcoholic beverages cost extra); and doors open at 3 p.m. Want a bit more luxury for your Derby Festival kickoff? The Bristol has it with both facility and food. The restaurant's elevated outdoor patio offers a spectacular riverfront vista, and the looks through the dining room windows are swell as well. Another nice touch is what I'm dubbing "seat rights": The table you reserve is yours for the day, so should you leave it to mill among the masses inside or outside the restaurant, it's still yours when you return.

    The menu is killer. Manager Scott Harper's crew will tease appetites with light munchies beginning at 4 p.m. (fruit, crudité, cheeses, Green Chili Wontons and Artichoke Fritters [no Bristol event is complete without those] and various other chips and dips). Come the 6 p.m. dinner, however, the serious chow comes out with an expansive buffet including a fresh fajita station, a barbecue station (can you say baby back ribs, pulled pork and mac and cheese?), a stir-fry station (featuring a range of veggies, Asian sauces and proteins that walk and swim), a raw bar (oysters on the half shell, shrimp, crab claws, seaweed salad and much more), all followed by a dessert and coffee station including Italian cream cake, Oreo cheesecake, tiramisu, cookies and more.

    To make reservations, call 812-218-1995.

    I'll have the good fortune of moving back and forth between both parties during the afternoon, plus I'll be Tweeting updates from the riverfront. If you're looking to make this year's Thunder a special one, break on through to the Hoosier side at Rocky's or the Bristol.


     Photo courtesy of The Bristol Bar & Grille Jeffersonville. 

    Steve Coomes's picture

    About Steve Coomes

    I'm a freelance food and restaurant writer, a native Louisvillian, married and a father of one son. I'm a restaurant veteran who figured out it's better to write about the business than work in it. I'm an avid reader and love to entertain friends at home.

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